Imported fire ants can pose serious threats to people, young animals, crops and equipment. Imported fire ants are non-native pests who are often introduced to new areas through transported hay bales. As ag producers begin buying hay for livestock, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is working to educate producers of the threat imported fire ants pose and how to ensure their property does not become susceptible.
Imported fire ants are 1/8 to 1/4-inch long and reddish-brown or black. They are best recognized by their aggressive behavior and mound-shaped nests. They respond quickly and aggressively when disturbed. The ants normally eat insects but will feed on almost any type of plant or animal material; causing direct danger to crops.
As of 2008, imported fire ants covered more than 320 million acres in 13 states including parts of Oklahoma. Baled hay is included in a Federal quarantined regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to help stop the spread of imported fire ants. Restrictions are imposed on the movement of hay from quarantined areas into or through non-quarantined areas.
To hay buyers, ODAFF offers a number of helpful practices. Ask the supplier if the hay contains ants and visually inspect the bales when they are delivered. If possible, request that the hay be certified for movement by the State from which it is shipped. Monitor the area where bales are located and continue monitoring throughout the time they remain onsite. Hay buyers can also determine if the hay supplier is within the imported fire ant quarantined area by visiting APHIS’s website at www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/plant_pest_info/fireants/zipcode.shtml.
Visit www.apps.ag.ok.gov/pestsurvey/quarantine.aspx for more information on imported fire ants. For questions concerning imported fire ants in Oklahoma, contact Kenny Naylor, ODAFF Environmental Resources Supervisor, at (405) 522-5971 or [email protected].